GOP's Mark Harris won't run again in contested North Carolina House race

Republican Mark HarrisMark HarrisDemocrat in contested North Carolina race raised .7M in second quarter Sacramento police reviewing 12-year-old's arrest after video goes viral Trump tweets 'Total Endorsement' of NC GOP House candidate MORE said Tuesday that he will not run in the new election for North Carolina's contested 9th District, citing health reasons. 

“Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9,” he said in a statement.

Harris instead endorsed Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing.

Harris initially led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the House race last year. But state election officials refused to certify him as the winner of the race after allegations of ballot tampering in rural Bladen and Robeson Counties emerged.

ADVERTISEMENT

Those allegations touched off a months-long investigation that culminated last week in a North Carolina State Board of Elections hearing, during which state officials and witnesses painted a picture of a sweeping ballot-tampering operation led by Leslie McCrae Dowless, a long-time political operative working for Harris’s campaign.

On Thursday, the final day of the hearing, Harris stunned political observers by calling for a new vote in the 9th District, a stark reversal from his past calls for election officials to swiftly certify him as the winner of the race.

“I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It’s become clear to me that public confidence in the 9th District has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

Harris’s remarks were followed minutes later by a unanimous vote by the state elections board to order a new election. It’s not yet clear when voting will take place. The elections board is set to determine a date at a subsequent meeting.

Under a state law passed last year, a new round of primaries must also be held.

But the ballot-tampering allegations combined with Harris’s acknowledgement of a recent illness left it unclear whether he would once again seek his party’s nomination.

In a statement on Tuesday, Robin Hayes, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said the state GOP supported Harris’s decision to withdraw from the race.

“There are numerous quality candidates that are discussing a run and although the Party will not be involved in a primary, we have no doubt that a competitive nominee will emerge,” Hayes said.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who previously considered running for the GOP nomination in the 9th District, said Monday that he wouldn’t seek the congressional seat. But he noted that he was still open to running for governor or U.S. Senate in the future.

"I had a dream of being in the U.S. Congress, but my dreams have changed," McCrory said on his radio show.

Updated 3:00 p.m.